We have been doing blended learning since the school’s opening in 2014. In the first year Building 21 was open, everything was online. We were essentially a virtual school with a brick and mortar attendance requirement. We knew early on that students needed more scaffolded support, particularly in learning how to use the hard- and software available to them and how to develop work management habits, which we call Habits of Success. We wanted to provide training in skills that students would need to work jobs in the future. By identifying these skills and attaching them to how students are evaluated, we have seen great improvements in students’ ability to manage their work. Additionally, we went from mostly workshops (or skill-based courses) over the last few years to more project-based learning, which enables students to demonstrate skill mastery in more authentic ways. Now, we’re additionally leveraging computer-based assessments to identify areas for growth and to plan intervention work. We are being proactive about closing gaps in students’ prior understanding.
One of the biggest challenges was overcoming our assumptions regarding students’ proficiency using technology. There are some things that they don’t know how to navigate on the computer. The Foundations course in ninth grade allows us to introduce students to the technological proficiencies they will need in the real world -- email, Google Drive, tools to strengthen presentation and organization. Additionally, through their Pathways, students begin preparing for twenty first century jobs while they’re still in high school. When they get to college they’re not seeing these digital tools for the first time, and, in fact, they’ve already worked with many of the tools they will utilize in the particular careers that they choose to pursue.
Create systems and structures around how you’re going to utilize the blended program. How are you monitoring and managing the program so that students are successful? For instance, if you are using 90 minute blocks, it’s not realistic for students to be on the computer for the entire time. How can educators break this time down to use it most efficiently? How are students monitoring their own progress? You have to make sure that students have a clear understanding of what they are doing and how they are interacting with technology at any given time.
Building 21 is a nonselective, competency-based public high school in Philadelphia that serves nearly 400 students in grades 9-12. Building 21 aims to empower learners to pursue their interests on a pathway to college and career success. The Pathways program at Building 21 is designed for students to ignite their passions and develop their talents in order to positively impact themselves and their communities. In addition to core academic courses, first and second year students participate in intensive study of college and career possibilities, and third and fourth year students participate in on-and off-site courses and experiences specific to an area of personal interest. All Building 21 students participate in Advisories, which meet daily and serve as hubs of social-emotional learning, team building, and goal setting. Additionally, Building 21 prides itself on a school-wide commitment to mindfulness and restorative justice. Building 21's goal is to prepare all students to pursue their postsecondary goals.
Building 21 - Philadelphia
6501 Limekiln Pike
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